|Distance:||6 miles, RT|
|Hiking Time:||4 hrs|
|Elevation Gain:||2,200 ft|
|High Point:||5,800 ft|
|Snow Free:||Mid-July - Mid-October|
|Trailhead Pass:||National Park Pass Required|
Trailhead: N 46° 46' 54", W 121° 46' 09"
JULY 18, 2012: New Closure Posted for Comet Falls Trail
A cool waterfall is always refreshing on a hot, sunny day and cascades on a cool overcast day can be equally spectacular. Fitting the bill is Comet Falls, possibly the most dazzling waterfall, and definitly the tallest, in Mount Rainier National Park. Top off a hike to that dramatic destination by going a bit farther to just-as-outstanding Van Trump Park, a luxurious meadow of spacious grandeur.
After arriving at the park's Nisqually entrance via Highway 706 through Ashford, drive 10 miles on the Longmire-Paradise road to the Van Trump Park trailhead at 3,600 ft elevation, just below Christine Falls. The parking lot, which can accommodate 20 cars, is often full on summer days. There is no alternative parking.
The Van Trump Park trail begins on the highway near Christine Falls and follows Van Trump Creek north toward its source. Up to the crossing of Van Trump Creek at 0.3 miles over Christine Falls, the way is quite steep. Beyond, the trail is only slightly steep.
In 0.5 miles the path traverses the first of three avalanche slopes where snowslides annually take out portions of the trail. The passage can be hazardous early in the season when the trail is buried under snow, and can be somewhat dangerous after dark, even without snow.
Keep trudging along, up and up, taking particular care as you skirt the top of Van Trump Canyon, with the creek far below. At about 1.5 miles, you'll reach a bridge over Falls Creek. After crossing the bridge, you'll soon be able to see Comet Falls. A series of rising switchbacks gives you, perhaps, the best photographic moments. Grab a few shots of the 320-foot falls in all its thundering and misty glory. Continue another 1/4 of a mile to a spur trail that leads close enough to the base of the falls to spray your face.
Now that you've whet (or wet) your appetite for the awesome experience of this Rainier hike, you're ready for the main course. After a rest and snack, pack it up and begin walking steeply (again) through trees and cliffs that end abruptly at the edge of the flower fields of Van Trump Park, about 2.5 miles from the trailhead.
Go right at a junction there and follow a spur trail about mile to an impressive viewpoint (at about 5,800 ft elevation), great sights and a vast flowery meadow.
There's an even better viewpoint later in the summer on the main trail beyond the junction when good weather makes it easier to negotiate Van Trump Creek. After a mile, that trail ends at Mildred Point (GPS: 46:48'02" N & 121:46'57" W) and you get shimmering mountain views, gorgeous wildflowers and maybe, just maybe, some sights of deer and goats scampering on nearby cliffs.
If you had two cars or had arranged a drop-off, you could go back a different way, ending at Longmire via Rampart Ridge, for a total of 7.3 miles, excluding spur trails.
Whatever way you choose to return, you'll carry back a memorable adventure filled with a refreshing waterfall, marvelous views and colorful flowers. If you've worked up an appetite for sustenance, stop at Longmire on the return drive for a delicious dinner at the National Park Inn.